As reported today on BassFan (click here), fishing-related injuries have reached an epidemic rate at the tour level. But such injuries occur throughout all levels of fishing.
Sometimes the injuries are simply a reoccurrence of old sports injuries. Other times the muscles and joints were overused or used incorrectly in tradework, and problems manifest themselves over a season of competitive fishing. Still other times, fishing itself traumatizes the muscle sets.
Probably the most common fishing-related injury is tennis elbow. In fact, it's so prevalent now that some have taken to calling it "fishing elbow."
Troy Lindner, a serious competitive angler and nationally certified health and fitness practitioner, founded Fit 4 Fishing last year in the effort to better understand and prevent fishing-related injuries.
The program is supported by a website (Fit4Fishing.com), two booklets, TV segments on WFN and this new series of Fit 4 Fishing articles on BassFan.
What's Fishing Elbow?
Particular motions in fishing, such as casting with a strong snap, working topwaters and jerkbaits or shaking a worm, among other techniques, puts significant stress on the elbow, Lindner said.
"It inflames and really stresses the tendon on the outside of your elbow. Because of the way the muscles work, the inflammation occurs where the muscle attaches to that tendon. The way the wrist works and the physiology of working a reaction bait – it stresses that tendon on the outside of the elbow. It's a similar movement to tennis – the same type of motion – and it just happens to stress the weak point on that muscle chain. Pretty much every angler who gets elbow pain gets it in that same spot."
In a best-case scenario, rest, ice and stretching can cure the inflammation. In a worst-case scenario, the inflammation can lead to critical failure in the elbow.
Dustin Wilks underwent Tommy John surgery to repair his wrecked elbow. Larry Nixon and Luke Clausen underwent surgery to reattach the tendon. Those are just two examples among many that show how serious fishing elbow can become.
"It could start as a small inflammation, which is basically the result of cumulative microtrauma," Lindner said. "And those small little tears eventually reach a breaking point and do tear, and that's when you have big problems. It's an overuse injury."
The first step in preventing and treating fishing elbow, according to Lindner, is to recognize it. Fishing elbow hurts in a single, identifiable spot – the outside of the elbow, closer to the hand than the shoulder. Once you feel it start, it's time to take action.
To test for fishing elbow, sit down in a chair and lay your forearm down on your leg. Flex your palm up about 70 degrees, extend your middle finger and put pressure on it. You can also put pressure on the back of your hand, then try to resist against it. If you feel pain or soreness on the outside area of your elbow, it's the start of fishing elbow.
"The way we hold our rods, the elbow takes a beating, and that first inflammation is like the oil warning in your boat," Lindner said. "When that goes off, you know it's time to shut down before you blow your motor. Same thing for the elbow, but people tend to just ignore it. It starts as just a little ache or pain and fishermen have the mentality to just push through it. But that's the exact opposite of what you should do."
Troy Lindner, pictured with father Al, is a serious competitive angler as well as a nationally licensed health and fitness practitioner.
Several pros have begun to use the same armbands common in tennis. These bands focus stress on the forearm in order to relieve stress on the elbow. Some take anti-inflammatories.
Lindner said the armbands can help, but he recommends against anti-inflammatories, because they're just a "temporary answer to a long-term problem" and can actually lead to greater injury, like a tendon tear, because they mask symptoms.
The best solution, Lindner said, is rest and ice, plus massage and stretching. If the pain isn't too bad, he recommends stretching right away. But if stretching hurts, wait until the inflammation recedes. And recognize which stretches feel good, and which ones hurt, then avoid the ones that hurt.
And of course, stretching and strengthening are the best way to prevent the start of fishing elbow in the first place.
Below are two Fit 4 Fishing videos that illustrate stretching and strengthening routines to help ease or prevent fishing elbow. Lindner noted that anglers don't need a heavy weight or dumbbell for the wrist curls.
> Two download one or both Fit 4 Fishing booklets, or to watch more videos, visit Fit4Fishing.com.
> Lindner encourages BassFans to contact him with any questions they might have. You can email him at email@example.com.